Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Upper Stratosphere Experiencing Minor Warming

The upper stratosphere appears to be undergoing some minor warming, although it is unlikely to set up a polar vortex disruption event.

The above animation shows temperature anomalies at the 10-hPa level of the atmosphere, in the upper levels of the stratosphere, over the last month. Beginning around November 20th, we started to see increasing temperatures just east of Japan, which really amplified in strength around November 27th. They aren't really moving in a particular direction, although a slight northward push has been noted over the past couple weeks.

This warming is likely thanks in part to a substantial increase in north poleward eddy heat flux values since about the last two weeks of November, right at the time when we started to see that warming commence in the 10-hPa layer. Typically, increased eddy heat flux values reflect an increased movement of warm air from the lower latitudes to the poles. Higher values can precede or coincide with stratospheric warming events, which is likely why we're seeing warming at the 10-hPa and 30-hPa levels.

The 30-hPa level, just a bit higher than the middle of the stratosphere, is showing some warming, albeit deflected a bit further east than the 10-hPa warming. In addition, this 30-hPa warming is showing an eastward push, rather than a poleward push. The latter would be more favorable for a polar vortex disruption event / stratospheric warming, so winter weather fans may not be too encouraged to see this.

To summarize:

- Minor warming is being observed at the 10-hPa and 30-hPa levels of the stratosphere.
- This warming is not strengthening quickly and is not making a strong poleward movement, so a stratospheric warming event is not expected over the next several days.